Saturday, 17 August, 2019

The morbid payload aboard SpaceX’s latest Falcon Heavy launch - a cosmic requiem

Final Flights For Those Aboard SpaceX WATCH LIVE: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Ready For Nighttime Launch On Florida's Space Coast |
Sandra Phillips | 25 June, 2019, 11:10

However, it wasn't all bad news for Elon Musk's spaceflight company - the two side boosters, being reused for the first time, did make it back to Earth in one piece.

The rocket originally was scheduled to lift off at 11:30 p.m., but launch directors set that back to 2:30 a.m. Tuesday to conduct "additional ground system checkouts". The charred metal tubes certainly showed signs of their off-world experience hours before launch, but when they ignited it was business as usual for the Heavy.

After the satellites' safe launch, each one began its own timetable for fully deploying, collecting test data and settling into its duties.

But the dual landing was just an appetizer. But the new core booster missed an ocean platform, not unexpected for this especially hard mission, SpaceX noted. The rocket was to release the satellites in three different orbits over a period of hours. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will also be sending their experiments as a part of this mission. On such missions, atomic clocks will allow spacecraft to navigate without input from Earth.

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The Planetary Society's LightSail crowd-funded spacecraft will attempt to become the first orbiting spacecraft to be propelled exclusively by sunlight. The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 mission follows up on a successful test of the technology in 2015, and could blaze a trail for interstellar flight.

"Solar sailing is a game-changer", Bill Nye, executive director of the Planetary Society, explained in a video preview of the mission.

An eclectic mix of payloads was packed into the Falcon Heavy's fairing. Each first-stage booster has nine engines, for a total of 27 firing simultaneously at liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX representatives had repeatedly stressed that its touchdown would be the most hard of the dozens that Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy first stages have attempted over the past few years, because today's mission required higher-than-normal speeds.

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